A college reunion is a useful prescription for nostalgia, but it has many side effects.
1. AMNESIA: On Friday night, my gay college friend Alec regaled our group with tales of yesteryear, such as the time he and I approached a frat house with the intention to partake in the cultural activities therein, and we were unceremoniously rejected. According to Alec, I sat down on the curb in front of the house. When a frat brother approached to shoo us away, I said, "Why do you assume I'm waiting for you to let us in? Maybe I'm just looking at the stars." Of course I was being snide. I don't remember this at all. Alec remembered incidents with startling detail, names and faces and conversations that had long ago disappeared into the bleak blankness of my confused youth. My other friends, though equally shocked at Alec's superhuman recall, still remembered far more than I did. "Oh my God! I have amnesia!" I announced. I remember more about my year abroad than my three years at Gettysburg. Maybe it's because I spent five years writing a book about that year abroad. Maybe it's because I remember what I don't want to forget.
2. NAUSEA: It wasn't just the Farnsworth Inn Civil War-Era Game Pie that tied my stomach in knots. It was the annoying couples with children who set up diaper stations wherever they pleased. (You look familiar, but I'm not acknowledging you because you have nothing to do with baby. Look at us though, just look at us! We showed up for the class photo just to prove that we came but we're skipping all the socials. No need for socials when you're a happy parent. Socials are for those sad people who don't have babies. Baby is everything! Nothing else matters! Who are you, and why don't you have a baby?) It was the young alumni who look exactly the same. They looked forty in college; ten years later, they still look forty. It was the class of 1983's unplugged version of Jimmy Buffet. It was the visual overdose of khaki pants and polo shirts. It was a middle-aged frat boy hitting on my married friend. It was the poster of Carson Kressley in the library (class of '91) juxtaposed with the LGBT reception of three: two plus me. It was feeling like I was the only one who had significantly evolved since college.
3. DISORIENTATION: I can't be fully self-expressed here. I haven't passed out a single "Lust Life" flyer. I didn't belong here then and I sure as hell don't belong here now. I belong with the other outcasts who never set foot on campus again since graduation, let alone consider attending a reunion. But if that were true, why am I here? I guess I belong in a bizarre sort of non-belonging way. My God, that was another lifetime.
4. EMBARRASSMENT: On Saturday afternoon, I attended the GALA (Gay and Lesbian Alumni) reception, naively hoping I would meet a young, sexy queer woman to invite back to the B&B. Sadly, only two other alums showed up - a gay man from the class of '58 and a lesbian from the class of '73. They talked about how challenging it was to be gay at Gettysburg when they were students. I told them I didn't even know I was bisexual at the time. I had attractions, but I repressed them. Even in the late nineties, queers were invisible at this predominantly straight, conservative college. Alec dated every gay guy on campus. I think he had three student lovers (wait, make that two; one was a college employee). Although the GALA event was embarrassing for the college, it was the highlight of my reunion. I met two fabulously fascinating people, including one former film critic for the LA Times. When I make my feature film, I'll send him a copy.
5. REGRET: Why did I go to this school? What on earth was I thinking? If I had to do it all over again, I would've transferred to...If I had to do it all over again, I would've applied to...If I had gone to a liberal university in an urban environment or a small women's college, I probably would've tasted pussy a lot sooner.
6. LUST: At the Saturday Night All-Campus Alumni Dance, a sorority chick flirted with me. She told me her husband thought I was hottest thing on the dance floor.
"Who is your husband?" I asked.
She pointed him out. I went right up to him and introduced myself.
"My wife's an asshole," he said.
I pretended not to know what he was talking about. "I think she's great," I said. "You married her."
I left him alone. A little later, she came up behind me and grinded against my ass. "That's for my husband," she said.
We bonded at one of the picnic table bars. "You know, if you're going to be with the same person for fifty years, you have to flirt," she said. "You can't just ignore that part...you know?"
"Oh, I know. I have a boyfriend, but we have an open relationship. We have certain agreements."
I almost told her I was bisexual. I decided to make a move instead. So I started dancing with her. I took her hands and she slipped right into the grinding thing again. I imagined she did more than grinding with her sorority sisters and she misses that now that she's married to a man.
"My husband's not here, so it doesn't matter," she said.
"Oh yeah?" I turned to face her. "You mean it doesn't matter because I'm a girl..."
"You're cute," she giggled.
"You like girls..." I said.
She smiled. I probed further, "Your husband would enjoy this, wouldn't he?"
"Oh yes, he would..."
That's as far as it went. I wasn't that into her. My flirtation was more for the novelty of seducing a sexually repressed straight woman. And to make a point about my sexuality. (Look at me! I like girls! I didn't admit it in college, but now I do!) And because I was missing my lust life at home where I'm not starving for lack of sexy queer women.
7. NOSTALGIA: On Saturday night, my friends and I sang our alma mater while watching fireworks rain shrapnel over Memorial Field. We all learned something that night. None of us ever knew that patch of grass behind the Bullet Hole snack bar was called Memorial Field. Isn't it wonderful? College education never ends. As softly the evening shadows are veiling the campus towers...ah, beloved Gettysburg! (Some side effects reflect the original symptom.)
8. RECONCILIATION: If I hadn't gone to Gettysburg, I wouldn't have met the fabulous friends who helped me survive my ten year reunion. If I had gone to NYU or Sarah Lawrence or Bryn Mawr, I probably would've conformed to the artsy open-minded norm and developed into a cliche feminist dyke. Or I would've felt lost and transferred to a more familiar school like Gettysburg. It doesn't really matter now, does it? One thing is certain: if I hadn't gone to Gettysburg, you wouldn't be reading this blog. A good story is always worth the price of regret.